Alexander Ovechkin

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This might be Alex Ovechkin’s most impressive goal scoring season yet

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It is the middle of December and Alex Ovechkin is in a familiar spot at the top of the NHL’s goal scoring leaderboard.

After scoring in each of the Capitals’ past two games, he finds himself tied with Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning for the top spot with 23 goals.

He is trying to win what would be his seventh goal scoring crown (something only Bobby Hull has done) and is on pace to top the 50-goal mark for the eighth time.

Only Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy (nine each) have more.

Even for Ovechkin, a player that has made a habit out of scoring 50 goals and winning goal scoring crowns, it is a standout performance for two big reasons.

The first being that he is rebounding from what was (by Ovechkin’s standards) a “down” year in 2016-17 when he finished with the second lowest goal output of his career (33) and the lowest even-strength goal performance (16). Remember the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons when his goal-scoring slumped to a more human level and everyone freaked out that he was done as an elite player or goal-scorer? Same thing kind of happened a season ago, even if to a lesser extent. He rebounded then, and he is rebounding now.

The second is that he is defying age and not only besting the rest of the league when it comes to scoring goals, but also father time.

So far this season Ovechkin has already topped his even-strength goal total from a season ago (17 as of Monday) and is on a pace to score 55 goals.

[Is Alex Ovechkin clutch?]

The second number is the big one because if he is able to maintain that pace (do you want to bet against him maintaining it? I don’t) it would be a pretty historic performance for no other reason than the fact almost nobody scores goals at this level at this age.

Ovechkin turned 32 years old just before the start of the 2017-18 season and is still the most dominant goal scorer in the league.

This is almost unheard of in an era of the NHL.

A few things to consider, just for historical context here

• Only four players in league history have scored at least 50 goals in a season in their age 32 season or older. John Bucyk (51) did it during the 1970-71 season at age 35. Bobby Hull (51) did it during the 1971-72 season at age 33. Phil Esposito (61)  did it during the 1974-75 season at age 32. Jaromir Jagr (54) did it during the 2005-06 season at age 33. That is it. Esposito is the only one to score at least 55.

• Going back to the start of the league (1917-18) the average age of the NHL’s goal-scoring leaders in each season is 26.1. That number lines up with when players typically hit their peak performance as goal scorers (usuallybetween the ages of 22 and 26). Ovechkin is currently on a pace to do it (or at least share it) at age 32.

• If he is able to win the goal-scoring crown this season he would be just the eighth player in league history to lead the league (or share the lead) in goal scoring at age 32 or older. Only one of them has done it in the post-Original Six era. The other six: Cy Denney did it at age 32 during the 1923-24 season. Bill Cook did it at ages 35 and 36 during the 1931-32 and 1932-33 seasons. Maurice Richard did it at ages 32 and 33 during the 1953-54 and 1954-55 seasons. Gordie Howe did it at age 34 during the 1962-63 season. Esposito did it during the 1974-75 season.

• Aside from potentially leading the league at an age when most players do not accomplish that, let’s also not lose sight of the fact he is currently on pace for the third best goal scoring season of his career. Let’s just, for comparisons sake, look at the top-10 goal scorers in league history and how old they were during the top-three goal-scoring seasons in their careers.

Wayne Gretzky: 21, 23, 24
Gordie Howe: 24, 23, 28
Jaromir Jagr: 23, 33, 28
Brett Hull: 26, 25, 27
Marcell Dione: 27, 29, 31
Phil Esposito: 28, 31, 29
Mike Gartner: 25, 31, 21
Mark Messier: 21, 22, 35
Steve Yzerman: 23, 24, 27
Mario Lemieux: 23, 22, 27

There are only five seasons out of that group where one of them was over the age of 30, and only two (Jaromir Jagr at 33 and Mark Messier at 35) where they were over the age of 32.

Obviously a lot of this for this season is based on projections.

He would not only have to remain healthy (something that has not been an issue for him in his career) but also maintain his current pace to make the history he is chasing here. Obviously we can not project injuries, but as long as he stays healthy this season there is no reason to believe that he can not maintain the pace he is currently on. His shots per game numbers have increased by more than a full shot per game versus a year ago. His shooting percentage has rebounded a little. He is scoring more regularly during even-strength play. Put it all together and you have one of the NHL’s all-time greatest goal-scorers putting together one of his most impressive seasons yet.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Oddsmaker: Carey Price heavy favorite to win Hart Trophy

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The NHL Awards will be handed out on Wednesday and online bookmaker Bovada is predicting that it will be a very good night for goaltender Carey Price. They put the odds of him winning the Vezina Trophy at a staggering 1/100, which is actually to be expected given that he’s widely regarded as a lock to claim that award.

What is more noteworthy though is the 1/20 odds they’re giving to anyone that wants to pick Price as the Hart Trophy winner. Alex Ovechkin has 5/1 odds while John Tavares is at 10/1. Price was certainly regarded as a serious candidate for that award, but the clear favorite? As good as his season was, the league’s MVP award typically doesn’t go to a netminder, although it wouldn’t be surprising if Price proves to be one of the exceptions.

Keeping with the theme, Carey Price was also given the best odds to win the Ted Lindsay Award (2/7) over Ovechkin (5/2) and Jamie Benn (6/1).

Erik Karlsson is also favored to win his second Norris Trophy over P K Subban and Drew Doughty. Meanwhile Johnny Gaudreau is projected to win the Calder Trophy while Bob Hartley is the favorite for the Jack Adams Award.

You can see the complete list below:

Odds to win the 2015 Hart Memorial Trophy
Carey Price (MON) 1/20
Alexander Ovechkin (WAS) 5/1
John Tavares (NYI) 10/1

Odds to win the 2015 Vezina Trophy
Carey Price (MON) 1/100
Pekka Rinne (NAS) 13/2
Devan Dubnyk (MIN) 11/1

Odds to win the 2015 James Norris Memorial Trophy
Erik Karlsson (OTT) 1/4
P K Subban (MON) 11/4
Drew Doughty (LA) 6/1

Odds to win the 2015 Calder Memorial Trophy
Johnny Gaudreau (CAL) 1/2
Aaron Ekblad (FLA) 7/4
Mark Stone (OTT) 5/1

Odds to win the 2015 Lady Byng Memorial Trophy
Anze Kopitar (LA) 5/11
Pavel Datsyuk (DET) 12/5
Jiri Hudler (CAL) 4/1

Odds to win the 2015 Frank J. Selke Trophy
Patrice Bergeron (BOS) 2/9
Jonathan Toews (CHI) 7/2
Anze Kopitar (LA) 5/1

Odds to win the 2015 Jack Adams Award
Bob Hartley (CAL) 2/11
Alain Vigneault (NYR) 4/1
Peter Laviolette (NSH) 5/1

Odds to win the 2015 Ted Lindsay Award
Carey Price (MON) 2/7
Alexander Ovechkin (WAS) 5/2
Jamie Benn (DAL) 6/1

Head coaches overwhelming support Price for Hart Trophy

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The Professional Hockey Writers’ Association gets to select the winner of the Hart Trophy, but before they cast their ballot, 20 NHL head coaches — 10 in the East and 10 in the West — were asked who their choice for the award would be and the results weren’t even close.

All 20 bench bosses said Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price would be their top pick for the Hart Trophy, per the survey conducted by TSN’s Bob McKenzie. Alexander Ovechkin, who leads the league with 52 goals, finished second on the ballot 19 times with the lone exception going to Ryan Getzlaf. John Tavares had six third-place votes to Sidney Crosby’s five.

Price would be the first goaltender since Jose Theodore in 2002 to take the Hart Trophy, but he’s been regarded as a favorite for the award for a while now. His dominant play is one of the big reasons the Montreal Canadiens might win the Presidents’ Trophy, but this is likely also a reflection of the relatively muted Art Ross Trophy race we’re witnessing.

While Ovechkin is far ahead of the pack in terms of goals, the points race is relatively open and no forward is likely to finish with 90 or more points. Not including lockout shortened seasons, that hasn’t happened since Stan Mikita won the scoring race with 87 points in 1967–68. It’s easy to assume that the lack of 90-plus point players is a byproduct of reduced scoring, but that’s not the case. The league has been averaging 2.74 goals per team per game this season, which is on par with what we’ve seen over the last four seasons, per hockey reference.

So scoring hasn’t gone down, it’s just become more spread out and that lack of dominance at the top might be playing into Price’s hands. At the same time, he wouldn’t be a contender either way if he wasn’t having an amazing season.

PHT Morning Skate: Ovechkin says if he could choose another place to play, it’d be Montreal

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Alex Ovechkin says if he wasn’t playing for the Washington Capitals, his preferred team would be the Montreal Canadiens. Ovechkin said he likes the atmosphere and culture in the city of Montreal. (ESPN.com)

Editor’s Note: Play one-day fantasy hockey tonight! Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $25,000 league for Friday’s NHL games. It’s just $2 to join and first place wins $2,000. Starts Friday at 7:00pm ET. Enter Now!

Anaheim Ducks players read harsh tweets:

Former Montreal Expo Vladimir Guerrero got a warm reception during the Montreal Canadiens game on Thursday night.

Actor and Boston Bruins’ fan Denis Leary is producing an eight-episode sitcom called “Benders”, which focuses on an amateur hockey team. (A.V. Club)

Matt Dumba recently ventured into Minnesota’s Mall of America to talk hockey with shoppers. The Wild’s rookie defenseman went predominantly unrecognized as he talked to shoppers about the local hockey team.

A linesman in the KHL suffered a brutal leg injury after a player was hit into his leg. The injury occurred during Ak Bars 1-0 overtime win against Sibir in KHL playoff action on Thursday.

Ovechkin, Chimera help Caps add to wild card lead

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Alex Ovechkin and Jason Chimera each scored twice as the Washington Capitals defeated the New York Rangers 5-2.

For the time being the Capitals trail the New York Islanders by just one point for the third seed in the Metropolitan Division. Washington also has a five-point lead on the first wild card seed in the Eastern Conference.

Marcus Johansson added an empty netter while Braden Holtby made 23 saves for the win.

One of Holtby’s bigger saves on the afternoon came midway through the first when he robbed Kevin Hayes.

With the pair of goals, Ovechkin now has a league-leading 49 on the season. He is one goal shy of his sixth career 50-goal season.

Chimera’s pair of goals snapped a 20-game drought.

Washington improves to 5-2-0 in their past seven games. New York has lost two straight in regulation for the first time since Jan. 27 and Jan. 29.

Eric Fehr and Brooks Laich each had two assists in the win.

New York, who got goals from Hayes and Derick Brassard, led 2-1 after the first period.

Cam Talbot made 26 saves in the loss.